5 Communication Skills That Are Crucial to Sales Success

| Created on August 21, 2019

Updated on August 2, 2021

Communication Skills


Excellent communication is the key for a successful sales conversion. A person with good conversational skills can sell garlic to a vampire.

communication skills for sales people

Now, in order to sell any product, you need to have a thorough knowledge of its features, uses, USP and functionality.

Once this is done, you need to hone your presentational skills in such a manner which would compel the potential customer to buy it. Communication skills for sales people are as important as sauce is to hamburger.

This means one needs to understand the clientele and the market demand. With such steps, there are a few key skills that you need to implement in order to make your sales successful.

List of 5 Must-Have Communication Skills for Sales People:

We have created a list of crucial communication skills for sales people. Let’s have a look at them.

  • What? So What? Now What?

Why do we need communication as an effective tool in sales? To clear any doubts or misunderstandings that the client might have.

One of the most effective technique for improving communication skills for sales people is Rolfe et al’s Reflective model, which is popularly known as ‘What? So What? Now What?’ technique. This method deals with structuring of information in a step-by-step manner.

According to Matthew Abrahams, the famous author of the novel Speaking Up Without Freaking Out, we are able to remember structured data 40% more accurately as compared to freeform information.

One of the easiest examples of this is how we remember phone numbers. If you were asked to provide your mobile number and you, for instance, narrated 7463873856 without any breaks, there is a good chance that the person will not be able to get it. However, if you break it down to 746-387-3856, there is a good possibility that the person will be able to remember it.
The ‘What? So What? Now What?’ model follows a schema which can be applied in your sales pitch as well. First step is to talk about what the product is. The next step is to talk about why it is necessary. The final step is to talk about its features and how can the client go ahead with purchasing the product.

For instance:

I am calling you to talk about xyz software. The software helps in managing your business finances. Let me tell you more about its state-of-the-art features.

  • ELI5

ELI5 Image

One of the key skills that any sales rep needs to hone, is ELI5. ELI5 is an abbreviation of ‘Explain Like I’m Five’ and is especially effective when trying to explain a technical concept to clients. Technical experts often presume inadvertently that the clients will know about certain features. Due to this reason, the client might feel lost.

Here is where the role of ELI5 comes into place. Explain the product and its features like you would explain to a five-year old child. One must understand that each client is different and some often aren’t as tech-savvy. Hence, it is always better to implement this approach to ensure that both you and the client are on the same page.

For instance, instead of asking your client if they are using a 32-bit processor or 64-bit, guide them step by step. You can tell them to right-click on the MY PC application and click on properties. Then to check under system type.

  • Steel-Manning

Steel-manning to a sales rep is what the Mjolnir is for Thor. It is one of the most powerful communication skills for sales people to convince their client to buy the product.

You must be aware of the term straw-manning. Here, a person (let’s call them A) makes an argument, while the other party (let’s call them B) takes that argument and trivialises it by summarising it critically. Then, B lands the final blow by putting their counterargument.

This makes A feel misunderstood and undermined. Hence, A quickly pulls up their defences and tries to strike back. In this scenario, no one can convince A to understand the perspective of B as his personal opinions have been belittled.

Steel-manning takes a more progressive approach to communication skills for sales people. In this scenario, instead of attacking A’s opinions, B agrees and sides with them. This gives A the feeling that both are on the same side and B is trying to help.

Here A makes an argument and B agrees with A, without posing doubts. Next, B summarises B’s argument positively, then adds on his argument disguised as an opinion, to enhance A’s argument.

For instance, if the client is against buying an accounting software saying that his accounting game is strong and that he has studied it as his major in college. Instead of belittling his argument by saying that machines can do a far better and more accurate job than they can, you can be more passive.

You can say praise his accounting skills and say that the software is specifically intended for people like you to make your work faster and auto organised. Unlike straw-manning, steel-manning helps you get in the good-books of the client by showing them how well you have received their point, while also suggesting ways to address their pain points.

  • Problem – Solution – Benefit

communication skills importance

According to Matt Abrahams another model, known as Problem – Solution – Benefit is prevalent in the industry. First, the problem (for instance: “There is virus in your computer”), next comes the solution (“install an antivirus software”), and then comes the benefit (“It will help prevent malicious attacks to your system, keeping your data safe and applications will run smoothly”).

Features Advantages Benefits is a similar model, used in sales where you define the feature (For instance “The antivirus comes with adware and malware blocker”). It’s followed by the advantage (“Viruses, malware and adware would not be able to breach its multi-layered encrypted firewall”). And finally, its benefit (“Minimises the risk of infection more efficiently than other competitive anti-virus software available in the market”).

  • Building Rapport

Rapport-building is one of the most creative tools that seasoned sales reps implement. An interesting yet effective trick mentioned by Leil Lowndes in her book ‘How to Talk to Anyone’ is using ‘premature we’.

In her book, she talks about the 4 stages of human conversations., sharing clichés, followed by sharing facts. This is then succeeded with sharing personal views and personal questions, and lastly using statements with ‘we’, in the place of ‘you’ and ‘I’.

Statements such as “we require more safety when it comes to personal data”, “How are we doing today?” or “This will ensure that our data doesn’t fall in wrong hands” provide a sense of collective belonging. This is more effective after personal questions, such as, “did you watch the game last night?”

However, if the client seems amicable, you use this technique in the beginning of the conversation as well.


If you employ all these points at the right time, you will be able to convert most of the leads save a few exceptions. These exceptional cases too sometimes depend on missing out something crucial, but at times you might get a customer hard to break.

But the most difficult are customers who don’t have proper communication skills. In these cases, you might win some and lose some.


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